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In the MRA, the second half of Section 2.9 appears to potentially disqualify any public university that is subject to open records requests under the Freedom of Information Act. What does this section really mean?

1 Answer

No public university is excluded from applying for -- or receiving -- a Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative grant by the Master Research Agreement.

Federal or state “freedom of information act” (“FOIA”) or “sunshine” laws may require that, where government entities (such as public universities) are involved, certain documents be publicly available or meetings be open to the public. The approval language in the Master Research Agreement was included so that BP, the Gulf of Mexico Alliance, and Research Consortia members understand before a project begins which of their internal documents, materials and meetings will be subject to public disclosure. In some states university research is explicitly exempted from the FOIA or “sunshine” laws. In any case, all data and final analyses from research funded by the GRI are required to be made public by the provisions of the MRA.

BP and the Gulf of Mexico Alliance request that applicants include a short statement in their proposals describing how such freedom of information act or sunshine laws would apply to their GRI activities, and what exceptions to disclosure would apply (some examples might include the "deliberative process privilege" or “researcher’s privilege”). The GRI Administrative Unit will facilitate appropriate consent with respect to the preceding in accordance with the MRA for all successful Research Consortia projects on behalf of the Research Board.
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